Published August 30, 2019
Additional Equity in Coding article:
When entrepreneur Sharmi Albrechtsen
appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank seeking investors
for her retail product SmartGurlz™, a codable
robot for girls, the sharks all agreed on one
thing: the idea was inspired.
SmartGurlz was born from Albrechtsen’s desire
to help her own daughter appreciate math.
Wondering what would capture the young girl’s
interest, Albrechtsen strolled into her daughter’s
bedroom. That is when her eyes fell on her doll
collection. Could there be a way to connect the
STEM aspects of robotics with dolls?
The scope of the idea grew, and Albrechtsen
realized she had not only a product that could
find a market but one that could make a
valuable difference in the world by addressing a
pressing social issue – the challenge of enticing
females onto the STEM career path. The clever
doll concept, the self-balancing algorithm on
the programmable scooters they ride, and the
ingenious coding interface were selling points,
but the purpose elevated the idea.
In Albrechtsen’s words, “In the US, we have
a major shortage of engineers and a male-dominated
workforce. How do we encourage
more girls in science, technology, engineering,
and math?” The answer: reach out to them
where they play.
Her appearance on the TV show was a success.
She ended up making a licensing deal with shark
Daymond John. But that was only a beginning.
Her company went on to win Best Startup at
the IEEE Women in Engineering Leadership
Conference. And now, with a revamp, the
product is making its debut in the education
market with the support of Pitsco Education.
Smart Buddies includes an expanded line
of dolls to cover a broader set of demographics
(including boys), making it a superb coding
solution for any STEM classroom. Though
the concept has been expanded, the original
brilliant inspiration remains.